Kieran Hull of Capital Blue Cross

AL:  You were the initiating force behind the recent Capital Region Arts Census conducted over the past two years by the Harrisburg Regional Chamber. Why did you feel that such an effort was necessary?

KH:  The arts inspire, challenge and bring out the very best in all of us. Central Pennsylvania is a great place to live, work and play, in part because of the amazing number of arts and cultural opportunities we enjoy.  We also count on artists and arts organizations to bring tourism to the region, generate tax revenues, provide jobs, purchase goods and services, and promote our region. The Capital Region Arts Census brings together information about this important cultural and economic asset, with the goals of enhancing support for our arts community and leveraging its positive economic impact on our region.

AL:  What value does the local arts community hold for your organization and other area businesses?

KH:  The health and well-being of our communities is what Capital BlueCross is all about, and it’s hard to imagine a healthy place to live without opportunities to experience culture and the arts. People want to be part of communities that are rich with creative expression. A vibrant arts community sparks a cycle of related commerce and investment. Culture and the arts also help businesses to keep talented employees here in Central Pennsylvania and to attract new talent from other parts of the country.

AL:  Why is it important for the regional business community to support the arts?

KH:  Regional businesses benefit tremendously from commerce that artists and tourists generate. If a restaurant, for example, sees more business because of a community arts festival, the restaurant’s employees and suppliers benefit, and tax revenue is higher. I once read that art is business, and the Capital Region Arts Census helps communicating with and cultivating the arts industry for our region to the next level. Strong support for the arts by the regional business community expresses, “We care about the quality of life for our customers, employees and their families.”

AL:  Do you have any recommendations for other executives who are interested in lending support to the arts in either large or small ways?

KH:  Given cutbacks in government funding, support in money, goods and services is helpful now more than ever to keep our arts community thriving in Central Pennsylvania. Executives can also lend their support by being visible in the community at arts and cultural events, and:

·       Bringing artists onsite to enrich employees in the arts and culture during the work day
·       Providing event tickets as employee incentives, rewards or recognition
·       Highlighting the arts and cultural events in employee communications
·       Providing a link to the Capital Region Arts Census on company Web pages
·       Encouraging employees’ participation in arts-related fundraising such as the Cultural Enrichment Fund
·       Supporting scholarships for the arts

AL:  Outside of traditional financial support, what are some ways in which the regional business and arts communities can come together to support one another?

KH:  Because they are so dependent on one another, from an economic development standpoint, I recommend striving for more coordinated goal setting and planning among our regional business and arts communities; the Capital Region Arts Census is a first step. Working with regional school districts, the business and arts communities could come together to provide new opportunities to promote the arts in elementary and secondary education. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and test scores, lower drop-out rates and higher levels of community service. Fostering the arts and cultural enrichment among young people today will have lasting social and economic benefits for our region.  Let’s work together to keep bringing out the very best in all of us.